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How to Eliminate the Foods that Can Cause Migraines

There are many foods suspected of causing migraine headaches in susceptible individuals. In order to prevent migraine attacks you need to find out what triggers them and then steer clear of the offenders. But, that is not so easy. The problem is there are so many possible triggers that you must become a bit of a detective to identify what is really causing your headaches. Some triggers are quite obvious, such as alcohol, which affects one-third of sufferers, while others, such as yogurt, may sound more surprising.

Some of the Most Common Migraine Triggers

  • Alcohol
  • Aspartame, an artificial sweetener added to thousands of sugar-free food products
  • Caffeine, caffeinated drinks and supplements containing caffeinated ingredients
  • Certain fresh fruits as well as some dried fruits
  • Cheeses and yogurt, containing tyramine mentioned below
  • Chocolate
  • Cold foods
  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), a popular flavor enhancer commonly used in Asian cuisines and frequently found in prepared foods
  • Foods with tyramine, an amino acid produced as food ages by the decarboxylation of tyrosine during fermentation or decay. This happens in soy sauce, pickled foods, nuts, dried fruits and many leftovers kept in the fridge for more than two days. Tyramine, which also occurs naturally in many plants, can provoke swelling in the blood vessels that triggers a migraine.
  • Organ meats
  • Peanuts and peanut butter and other nuts and seeds
  • Potato chips
  • Processed meats containing nitrates
  • Some heart medications
  • Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon

Patients need to watch out for foods that might be provocative, such as aged cheese or chocolate. But, just because some food is on the list does not automatically imply that it is a particular patient’s triggering factor. Some migraineurs can drink alcohol without getting a migraine while others cannot. Some women suffering from migraines can also eat chocolate as long as they are not menstruating, which is another migraine trigger all on its own.

Elimination Diet

Elimination diet consists in removing the foods suspected of causing migraine headaches from your diet. The elimination process enables you to collect clues as to what causes your migraine attacks. Thirty days elimination diet is the ideal way to identify food sensitivities if you can devote that much time and stay focused. You should first remove common culprits from your diet. That means no coffee, no alcohol and no Asian food. To be successful, you should be reading food labels and cooking at home. After thirty days, you can start adding foods one by one back into your diet.

Reintroducing Foods

Start reintroducing foods one by one. Pick one food from the exclusion list and eat one serving. Then wait four to five days, which is the length of time needed by your body to fully process and eliminate that particular food. Continue doing so until you have reintroduced all the foods you removed from your diet. Depending on the number of excluded foods, the whole process should take about ninety days.

However, if you identify a food that triggers your migraines, it does not necessarily mean that you can never eat it again. There are offending foods that you can eat once a week, for example, but since you eat them sparingly there is never enough in your system to create a reaction.

When returning foods to your diet, keep a diary to help you determine which foods you can eat often and in larger quantities and which you need to eat less often. You should also record other relevant issues that could be affecting your migraines, such as stress, lack of sleep, menstruation, medications currently used, time when you had a headache and whether you used any medication to relieve the pain. Also, if you get a migraine attack while returning a food, consider that the food might not be the sole cause. Often, other factors must be met too. For instance, you can eat chocolate as long as you are not premenstrual or wine may only affect you if you did not drink enough fluids that day.

If your migraine attacks continue despite having removed the most common offending foods from the diet, the records in your food diary can help your doctor to further investigate possible culprits. Other relevant factors that should be recorded in your food diary include the frequency and severity of the headaches and whether you are getting enough rest and proper hydration. Using these clues, your doctor can then help you design a treatment plan that should work best at reducing the frequency and severity of your migraine attacks.

Where to Find More Information and Support:
The Migraine Trust
Migraine.com